PAST LIFE by David Mark (Severn House)
After some recent diversions into dark stand-alone psychological thrillers, David Mark is back with a new
DS Aector McAvoy novel, Past Life (Severn House, 1 November 2021).
The book opens with the gruesome murder of a middle-aged woman who makes a living as a fortune teller and clairvoyant. She lives on an isolated part of the Humber Estuary near the English city of Hull, and one bleak evening she makes the mistake of inviting a strange man into her home for a reading.
McAvoy is summoned to the murder scene and soon sees a similarity between the slaughter and a case that he was involved in twelve years ago. It was the case that united him with his future wife, Roisin, and led to him hiding a dark secret for over a decade. Now it seems that the almost mythical killer responsible for that first murder is back from the dead and targeting McAvoy and his family.
As we follow McAvoy and his vividly captured supervisor, Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh, pursue the killer, a second storyline goes back twelve years and we become caught up in the earlier case and the decades long feud between Roisin’s Traveller family and another clan. It is this feud which led to the death of Roisin’s aunt, another fortune teller, and the consequences of which still trickle down through the years.
A little patience is required, especially if you are new to the series, as Mark puts the various strands in places and sets out the complex relationships, but once underway it is a gripping read. The second half of the book bristles with tension and suspense, and the book builds to a taut and bloody conclusion, and a surprise or two.
As always with Mark’s books, the characters are well crafted, well rounded and very interesting, and the locations, especially an estuary island where some of the action takes place, are evocatively described and suitably bleak. Regular readers of the series will enjoy witnessing the maturing relationship between the main characters, especially Trish and Roisin, and they will appreciate the background information on how Roisin and McAvoy first met.
Some aspects require a slight suspension of disbelief, and parts of ending are a touch convenient, but overall this is a really first class British crime novel that will readily immerse you in its dark world. A very good read.
Four stars out of Five!
Past Life is available in hardback and on Kindle from Severn House. It is not released locally in Australia, but can be purchased on Amazon etc. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an early copy.